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Potholes On The Road To Racial Reconciliation

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By: Elisha Lawrence

Acts 14:22 — It is necessary to go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.


Paul told this to the believers in the towns where he just planted churches. These are the towns that Paul and Barnabas were run out of by jealous and angry Jews. In one of those towns, Paul was stoned and dragged out of the city but somehow lived through it.


Who wants to sign up to be a Christian?


Paul and Barnabas kept on going to place after place even though they met with opposition everywhere they went. The only reason they would do this is that Jesus is worth it.

Following the Lord will mean opposition. You might not get stoned by anyone and dragged out of a city, but hardships and misunderstandings are inevitable.

When I think about what’s happening in our world and the Church, I wonder what this means for us.

Where would we meet opposition?

Where is it that we’ll run into hatred and jealousy?


It’s interesting to note who was the source of the hostility toward the Christians. It was the Jews.

Jews were persecuting Jews. Jews were driving out and trying to kill other Jews. It didn’t start with the pagan Romans, although that would come later. It started with their own religious countrymen.


Now I’m not sure where opposition for City Church will come from. Indeed, the culture around us seems to be growing more intolerant of Christianity. There is a general disdain for the exclusivist truth claims of Christians and some want to silence Christian rhetoric altogether.


That’s a real danger.

But a conversation I had a few weeks ago alerted me to a possible source of suffering that I would not have anticipated.


I was sitting with a group of college students in Nashville at Watson Grove Baptist Church with their wonderful Senior Pastor John Faison. Pastor Faison welcomed us in for a few hours to discuss the roots of racism in America, particularly in Nashville. Pastor Faison is an intelligent, informed, and bold man. I feel privileged to have met him and learned from him. He's a Black pastor in a predominantly African American church. And he said something I hadn’t anticipated hearing. I’ll paraphrase here:


“If you are going to truly stand for justice, you may lose friends. You may get ostracized, but work with the Spirit regardless of where it leads.”


Pastor Faison wasn’t just speaking from historical study, he was speaking from personal experience. And he was echoing the words that Paul said to those young Christians in Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch.


Acts 14:22 — It is necessary to go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.

The kingdom that God wants to bring on earth is often opposed. What's surprising, however, is that is that it is often opposed from within.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “The greatest tragedy in life is not the deeds of evil men; the greatest tragedy is the silence of good ones!”


He is celebrated now as a Civil Rights hero, but in his day, he was greatly opposed by many Christians. We’d do well to expect a similar reception at points if we’re honestly going to move towards the type of diversity that the gospel encourages us to.


What my brother Pastor Faison was saying is that real diversity requires sacrifices that most people are not willing to make.


We may read that Christ came to die for people of “every tribe, tongue, and nation.” But are we willing to attend a school where our children might be the minority?


We may say amen to the “breaking down of the dividing wall of hostility” between different races, but are we willing to live in a neighborhood where we are a minority?


We may say we want diversity, but are we willing to listen to minorities to hear their experiences of injustice without lashing out in defensiveness or labeling it as political speech?


These are not easy questions for us. They aren’t easy questions for me. Yet they are necessary questions we need to be asking.

I am a white male. I don’t know the experience of a black male or a Hispanic female. Racism and racialization are massive issues in our country. I wouldn’t have said that just three years ago. At that point, all I noticed was the segregation on Sunday mornings. I thought having a diverse church service would solve the problem.


But the more I talk with minority brothers and sisters in Christ, the more I read about the history of our nation, the more I am painfully aware how short-sighted and ill-informed I was before the last three years.


City Church, I exhort you to learn, read, and be humble enough to admit where you have been wrong. To get where I believe God wants us to go with diversity and racial justice is going to take endurance, trust, and love for one another. It’s not going to be easy. We may even lose some friendships or be characterized as troublemakers.

Remember this:
Acts 14:22 — It is necessary to go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.


Reading Suggestions
Divided by Faith: Christian Smith, Michael Emerson
The Color of Law: Richard Rothstein
Removing the Stain of Racism from the SBC: Kevin Jones

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MLK50 Conference

By Trevor Atwood

Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated almost 50 years ago. The anniversary of his death is approaching this April. 

To both honor Dr. King’s legacy and to help propel the church forward in racial reconciliation, I want to invite you to the MLK50 conference in Memphis this April 3-4 in Memphis, TN

Our elders, deacons, and staff will be attending in a hope to better understand a God-glorifying, church-uniting response to the racism and injustice that has been so ingrained in our country’s history.

I would love to see a large representation of our church at this event in April. Will you come?

 

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